Dining on a Shoestring: Fire Works

In Leesburg, a high-grade, low-key destination.

At a time when pizzas include fresher ingredients than you get in some three-star restaurants and soft-shell crab is sometimes as familiar a topping as pepperoni, it takes more than a wood-burning oven and a good crust for a pizzeria to distinguish itself.

That helps explain why Fire Works (201 Harrison St., SE, Leesburg; 703-779-8400) touts its ingredients as local, nitrate-free, and organic. The dining room, painted a soft butter color with chocolate-hued wainscoting, is filled with locals on casual dates as well as families gathering for a good meal at a good value.

And, of course, good pizza.

The best are specialty combinations, such as the meaty Quattro Carni ($11 for a 10-inch pie, $17 for a 14-inch) and the Segundo ($11 and $17) with white sauce, bacon, smoked mozzarella, and apples.

Beyond pizza, the bruschetta trio ($6.95) is a sophisticated surprise. The thick ciabatta toasts are artfully topped—one with roasted peppers and local chipotle goat cheese; one with organic tomato jam, mozzarella, and basil strips; one with Brie, honey, and almonds. Bacon-wrapped barbecue shrimp ($7.95) are a tastier choice than the tomato soup with Asiago cheese ($4.50), which is as thick and zesty as pizza sauce.

The house salad ($3.95 small, $6.95 large) is more interesting than most, with pine nuts, Gorgonzola, and dried cranberries perking up the mix of lettuces; the large can be shared by three to four. A meat-filled Italian hoagie ($6.95) and the creamy Virginia macaroni and cheese with ham and peas ($6.95) are better and more vivid than versions elsewhere. The mac and cheese—like everything else that’s baked, including desserts—is fired in the same wood-burning oven as the excellent pizzas.

Fire Works adds into the bargain efficient and friendly service, a modern but comfy atmosphere, a beguiling lunch special—a six-inch pizza and a salad for $7.95—and a low-key bar where locals nurse everything from Yuengling Light to a Belgian La Chouffe Tripel while catching a game on the tube.

The wine list is extensive and just as interesting. The 53 varieties include eight Virginia wines—not a lot, but more than you’ll find at many restaurants in the area.

This review appears in the February, 2010 issue of The Washingtonian.